Oct. 3, 2017: Response to Guidance on campus sexual misconduct from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights
In my Aug. 25, 2017, communication to campus, I indicated that additional guidance on campus sexual misconduct from the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (OCR) was anticipated within the coming weeks. On Friday, Sept. 22, 2017, the OCR rescinded two guidance documents related to Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972: the April 4, 2011, Dear Colleague Letter on Sexual Violence and the April 29, 2014, Questions and Answers document.
The OCR communication included new interim guidance, the September 2017 Q & A on Campus Sexual Misconduct, which will be in place during the public comment period. After the comment period concludes, it is expected that new federal regulations on Title IX and campus sexual misconduct will be issued.
As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we uphold the respect and dignity of all people and use law and guidance as a baseline for our University policies. But we strive to do more than the minimum required by law.
Since 2013, our policies on sexual misconduct have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to providing a safe campus for all individuals. The current policy has been revised three times since 2013 to build in additional protections, provide more support to reporting and responding parties, and increase transparency in the investigative process.
The interim guidance document addresses 12 items related to Title IX. Some of these items reaffirm guidance or law that universities currently follow. The items that differ from previous guidance and how/if they impact Creighton include:
- Guidance: Interim measures are defined as “individualized services offered as appropriate to either or both the reporting and responding parties involved in an alleged incident of sexual misconduct, prior to an investigation or while an investigation is pending.” This includes counseling, course adjustments, housing changes, work modification, etc.
Creighton Response: Creighton University currently provides interim measures to both parties throughout the investigative process.
- Guidance: There is no fixed time frame under which a school must complete a Title IX investigation.
Creighton Response: Creighton policy states “the Office of Equity and Inclusion strives to conclude the formal resolution process within 60 calendar days.” This will not change, as the office will continue to complete investigations in a prompt, fair, and equitable manner.
- Guidance: Findings of fact and conclusions should be reached by applying either a preponderance of the evidence standard or a clear and convincing standard.
Creighton Response: We will continue to use a preponderance of the evidence standard in the resolution process.
- Guidance: If a school chooses to allow appeals from its decisions regarding responsibility and/or disciplinary sanctions, the school may choose to allow appeal solely by the responding party or by both parties, in which case any appeal procedures must be equally available to both parties.
Creighton Response: Creighton policy provides both parties the ability to appeal. This will not change.
Creighton University is prepared to participate in the public comment process to share our ongoing commitment to the safety of our students, faculty, and staff through our programming, education, and resolution processes. The Office of Equity and Inclusion and the Violence Intervention and Prevention Center will provide more information as it becomes available on how individual members of our community can lend their voices to this process.
During this interim guidance period, individuals may have questions or concerns about the impact to Creighton University. I encourage you to contact allisontaylor [at] creighton [dot] edu (Allison Taylor), executive director for the Office of Equity and Inclusion and campus Title IX coordinator, to learn more about how the University is addressing these issues and continuing to support all members of the community.
Rev. Daniel S. Hendrickson, SJ